More than 1,200 gang members travel all over Charlotte, reports the Charlotte Observer. Some are in their 40s, but as many as a third of them are still young enough to be in school. Police blame gangs for crimes ranging from graffiti and identity theft to rape and murder. The gang database included only 853 names just last summer. It’s not clear how much of the increase comes from a jump in gang membership, or from better tracking by police. Last year, the Governor’s Crime Commission reported the number of gangs statewide increased 68 percent from 1999 to 2004.
Charlotte police have identified 78 gangs. Some are locally based groups with as few as three known members such as the Oriental Ruthless Boys. But in gangs such as the Kings, police have documented 191 members. Various factions of that gang, plus the Crips, Bloods, MS-13 and SUR-13, boast the most members countywide. Unlike other cities such as Los Angeles or Chicago, Charlotte’s gangs are mobile and are not as tied to single neighborhoods. They don’t delineate turf as tightly as other cities. The gangs often rely on hierarchies of power. But the most dangerous members are those lowest on the ladder, said Detective Harold Jackson. Those who aren’t even members are the ones most likely to try to impress the leaders at the top with reckless crimes, he said.